Free Frank! More History of OB and the Rag

by on December 15, 2009 · 26 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, History, Media, OB Time Machine, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Peace Movement

Photo originally published in the O.B. People's Rag, 1972

Photo originally published in the O.B. People's Rag, 1972. Old Lifeguard Station at the foot of Santa Monica, Ocean Beach California.

Today a good friend sent us a tidbit that he found tucked away in his morgue file, and that got me sidetracked in a real fun way….

Frank has written a lot of historical pieces on Ocean Beach (click on HISTORY up there in the navigation bar, you won’t be sorry) and in my opinion this article needs to be part of the story of the Collier Park Riot. Originally published in the door (another San Diego underground paper) in May of 1972, it tells a bit of the story of our very own EditorDude on that infamous day in March 1971.


May 25-June 8, 1972 – page 3


C. W.
On Friday, May 5, the trial of Frank Gormlie, community organizer and writer for the O. B. People’s Rag, came to a conclusion. Frank was being tried on two charges stemming from a demonstration at Collier Park over a year ago. One was, “failure to disperse from an unlawful assembly” and the other was, “assault with a deadly weapon upon a police officer”. After two and a half weeks of listening to testimony and almost two days of deliberation, the jury passed down a verdict of guilty. The latter charge carries with it an indeterminate sentence of six months to life in state prison. Frank is now in county jail pending sentencing.

On the day in question, an anti-war rally was held on the beach, attended by a cross-section of people from Ocean Beach, ranging in ages from 5 to 50. Following the rally, the crowd marched up Voltaire St., making efforts to keep the street clear, to Collier Park. The crowd was peaceful and festive; they had come to the park with the intent of cleaning it up, planting flowers, and saving the land that had been dedicated to the Children of Ocean Beach. Frank Gormlie was busying himself by passing out shovels for people to use to plant flowers and trees.

Five Police Officers came into the park to tell the band, that was scheduled to play that day, that they could not set up in the park. The Police officers left and the band proceeded to set up on an obliging neighbor’s lawn across the street from the park. About an hour later, 30-40 Police officers in riot gear appeared. Some of the crowd had entered the street by this time looking forward to listen to some music. Observing this, the Police officer in charge, Lt. Crow, immediately declared an illegal assembly, and ordered the area cleared. After a few protests, the crowd, and Gormlie, began to orderly disperse.

Before Gormlie could leave, a local disc jokey approached him and asked him to come into his house and give a live report on the radio over the phone. Frank emerged from the house about twenty minutes later and started to head directly to his house, which meant walking alongside a police line. Frank was heading up the block to his house when he saw a police officer run into the crowd after a young boy and begin to beat the boy repeatedly with his club. Gormlie, who was still carrying one of the shovels he had been passing out during the day, ran over and tried to block the officer’s blows with the shovel. The officer then attempted to strike Frank several times, and when it appeared that the officer was reaching for his gun, Frank ran into the crowd and up the street.

The prosecution brought in ten witnesses, six of them police officers, claiming that Gormlie assaulted police officer Sgt. Anderson with a shovel. These police eye-witnesses gave widely varying and conflicting statements as to how and where the alleged blows struck Sgt. Anderson. The defense presented several eye-witnesses who saw Sgt. Anderson beating the young boy and saw Gormlie trying to stop it.

The case for the defense hinged on the fact that according to law, a person is allowed to defend himself or another if undue or unreasonable force is being used by a police officer in attempting to make an arrest or otherwise in the performance of his duties.

The prosecution, in addressing the jury, which consisted of 11 white, middle-aged, middle class people, and one young white male, directed its statements at the fears and biases of the jury. The prosecution pointed out that Gormlie worked for the 0. B. Rag and claimed that since he ran from the incident, he was obviously guilty. There was also an appeal made to patriotism in mentioning that the Viet Cong flag was displayed at the anti-war rally and great restraint was practiced by the police at seeing their country so maligned. The prosecution’s closing statement was, “The Police cannot get justice in the streets, but only here in the courtroom and it is up to you the jury to see that they get that justice.”

Ted Bumer, Gormlie’s lawyer, used his closing statements to point out the inconsistencies in the prosecution witnesses’ testimony and stressed the point that the people’s right, guaranteed under the First amendment, for peaceful assembly was denied. Bumer reminded the jury that they must be convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt” with an “abiding conviction and to a moral certainty” of the guilt of the accused.

Two days later, Frank Gormlie was found guilty on all charges, and is now awaiting sentencing on May 26.

Frank served time from May to December of 1972. Part of the terms of his probation was that he was not to associate with the OB Rag or members of the staff, but he was successfully able to appeal those conditions and that part was overturned.

Free Frank!

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie December 15, 2009 at 8:48 pm

I had no idea that Patty was doing this! I did not put her up to it and did not promise her anything if she posted it. She’s one of those “uppity women” around here.

Nice article. I don’t even think I saw the original until JEC sent it today. Thanks Patty and thanks JEC, and thanks CW – whoever that was.


Patty Jones December 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm



Shawn Conrad December 16, 2009 at 9:03 am

She did it so I could get the image for free and not pay for it. She is now working for me. *evil laughter*


Patty Jones December 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Mr. Conrad, I sent a high resolution file of this image to you for your mom. Happy holidays.


Shawn Conrad December 16, 2009 at 9:06 am

I did not receive it yet. I accidentally painted over the graffiti on my computer screen. Does anyone have any turpentine?


Patty Jones December 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

That 90% alcohol that you use to clean your bong will work as well as turpentine.


Shawn Conrad December 16, 2009 at 10:29 am

You and your staff are always so helpful, thanks!


Dave Sparling December 15, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Great story, just glad that bunch of cops were not as gun crazy as they are now. Also we didn’t have Zee Fadderland Security Bozos.


Frank Gormlie December 15, 2009 at 11:41 pm

One silly thing that happened during my trial in 1972 was that the judge dismissed that “young white male” from the jury. Right out of the box! Why? Some kids from the OB Free School had showed up in court to observe the trial and they had exchanged waves from afar with the young white male. Another juror complained that he was communicating with my supporters, so ol’ “hanging Jack” Levitt dismissed him.

Many, many years later – I had the opportunity as a criminal defense lawyer to appear in the courtroom of the then-prosecutor in my trial, now sitting as a Superior Court judge. He shared with me one of his memories of my case – which was incredible that he remembered it at all after 35 years! – that when he had been ordered to take the case to trial, Judge Levitt had just given a big speech at some luncheon about the ‘evils of civil disobedience.’ And then he had to take my case – with a type of civil disobedient defense: the defense of others against a police officer and the right to resist an unlawful order to disperse – to trial in front of Levitt.


Ernie McCray December 15, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Ah, the good old early 70’s in America’s Finest City. I remember the Red Squad, talking “Yo Mama” kind of trash, trying to create “Hey, did you hear what those guys said about you guys?”problems between human rights organizations like US and the Black Panthers. When anybody took to the streets they’d smell blood. If you mentioned Fidel or Che or Mao or Huey or Malcolm or Angela or Cesar or Henry’s daughter, “Hanoi Jane,” they’d practically go insane. And OB definitely wasn’t their cup of tea. What a vivid tidbit of history Patty put on line for us to see. What’s so beautiful is that OB is still representing after all these years.


Editordude December 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

We think we know who did that spray painting of the old lifeguard station. We’d disclose who it was but they’re too high up in one of the key institutions of society – waiting for the Revolution. LOL


Shawn Conrad December 16, 2009 at 9:07 am

I’ll spill the beans: It was Nixon


Frank Gormlie December 16, 2009 at 9:33 am

gee Shawn, you just love to see that jolly rogers of yours all over the chatter box, don’t ya?


Shawn Conrad December 18, 2009 at 11:37 am

It breaks up the monotony.


Dickie December 16, 2009 at 9:12 am

The first day I ever drove into OB, Thanksgiving Day 1972, there was a graffiti on the wall of I believe a laundromat around Abbott and Long Branch or so with a blank wall where someone had sprayed “Free Frank Gormlie” and someone else had sprayed out “Free” and and sprayed “Hang”. I remember thinking “Here’s a guy who calls forth some strong opinion in this town . . .” A few weeks later I met Frank after he got out and, becoming friends, I realized just what an asset he was to OB . . . and still is.

That “Hang” spraying stayed on that wall a long time, and didn’t you meet the guy who did it much later Frank?

Great piece, Patty, I was wondering when the Ballad of Frank Gormlie would be begun . . .

I like your new tshirt models too . . .


Frank Gormlie December 16, 2009 at 9:18 am

Dickie, yes, a few years later, I met the guy who admitted to me that he had written the word “hang”. I was working at the time at the Inbetween (and BTW you never wrote anything about your memories of the building) – he was an older guy who told me he had never met me or knew me just wanted to be caustic. He was hanging around the Inbetween trolling for young hippie women. We encouraged him to move on.


Michelle December 16, 2009 at 10:16 am

What an amazing slice of personal history. I have been lucky enough to hear bits of this story, but to read this piece was truly a pleasure. Thanks Patty and thank you Dad.


annagrace December 16, 2009 at 11:12 am

Where can I get my free Frank Gormlie?


Shawn Conrad December 16, 2009 at 11:16 am

The same place you’ll return it to: Lemon Grove


Frank Gormlie December 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Hey, my home is OB but I stay with my GF in LG.


Shawn Conrad December 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Sorry, but you have been labeled a deserter, and by that I mean it has come to the attention of Ocean Beach as a whole that you like something sweet after dinner.


Patty Jones December 16, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Frank’s philosophy is that the sweetness should be part of dinner.

And I’m holding him hostage.


Shawn Conrad December 18, 2009 at 11:38 am

Frank is a sweetie. We are all very glad that you are his captor.


Dave Sparling December 16, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Frank I am sure you have seen this in court, but I will always remember it. Years ago traffic court in Phoenix, old couple first row, old lady stands, judge says you know how important it is to have your drivers license with you in the car, but I am going to dismiss the charge. After several pronouncements of GUILTY, including me, I found of course that the old couple in the front row was another judge and his wife.


Robert Burns December 17, 2009 at 9:32 pm

I love these articles on the history of OB esp. those, like this one, which predate me coming here (1976). It’s a shame Frank had to take the rap for protecing a young kid from police brutality; we’ve since seen at least one kid killed here by the police.


Frank Gormlie December 17, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Thanks Robert. You speak of Tony Tuminia?


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